By Ashley Jost
ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon visited St. Charles County Saturday afternoon to further assess the damage from a tornado that struck Friday night.
Nixon’s visit, which was a mixture of talking to press and stepping away to have private conversations with those who have lost their homes, was one of two assessments he made Saturday with the other at the Meramec State Park.
Twice during the tour, the governor was pulled away by staff to introduce residents.
The first, was Paul Schiff, a Greenboro Drive resident who was asked to share the story with Nixon about how he and a few others found and uncovered a couple and their dog that had been trapped under debris from their flattened house the next street over.
The second introduction was with a Haversham Drive resident named Keith whose two-story home was completely destroyed. Nixon and Keith stood on the still-carpeted remains of what was likely Keith’s living room, and talked about the events from the night before, and what the family’s plans were, living-wise, moving forward.
Among the officials who joined Nixon during the short tour of the tornado-ravaged area just off of Dingledine Road in St. Charles were Republican representatives Kathie Conway and Chrissy Sommer, as well as County Executive Steve Ehlmann.
“I haven’t had electricity, so for a while I wasn’t sure what the extent of the damage was,” Conway told The Missouri Times. The brunt of the major damage is within Conway’s district. “I got out this morning and drove around a bit. I saw the trees down and a lot of damage that looked cosmetic, at first. What’s most important is that no one was injured.”
Conway touted the work of the first responders in the area who worked to make sure everyone was accounted for and safe.
Looking ahead, Conway said aside from getting power restored to the area, making sure buildings that were damaged are safe is another priority.
“People have been displaced and they’re worried, and that’s probably the most disconcerting things for everyone,” she added. “Hopefully soon we’ll clean up and get these homes livable for folks again.”
A representative from the Department of Public Safety said there are about 35 homes that have been destroyed, and about 100 that have been damaged in some way. While those numbers are hard to calculate specifically until the Federal Emergency Management Agency further assesses the area, the representative said usually the numbers from area and state groups are an overestimation of what FEMA decides.
As of Saturday afternoon, FEMA had yet to visit St. Charles, but the Department of Public Safety representative said the organization is expected “very shortly.”
During one of the briefings with reporters, Nixon confirmed there have been three fatalities because of the storms, later adding that all were drowning incidents. He added that in one of his briefings with the National Weather Service, the Meramec River rose more than seven and a half feet during a 30-hour period.
While Nixon declared a state of emergency Friday night, he said there’s no certainty on when or how much money the state will receive for the damages because of the ongoing emergency situation in southern parts of the state.
“Our emergency management system is still up and operating,” he told reporters. “We still have storms in southern Missouri. When we get done with this particular track of storms, we’ll start evaluating.”
To contact Ashley Jost, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter at @ajost.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.